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Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land

Program Overview


Man tunnelling NOVA explores a remote Judean cave where ancient Jews sought refuge nearly 2,000 years ago.

The program:

  • travels to the Southern Israel desert with a team of archeologists who are trying to learn more about the people who inhabited the Cave of Letters.

  • chronicles a 1960-61 expedition to the cave, when Israeli archeologist Yigael Yadin theorized the cave had been inhabited by refugees from the Second Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 A.D.

  • describes how Yadin discovered the letters of Jewish rebel leader Simeon Bar-Kokhba and the personal documents of a Jewish woman named Babatha.

  • shows how archeologists on a second expedition, led by Richard Freund, use ground penetrating radar, endoscopy, and electrical resistivity tomography to see beneath cave floor rubble.

  • reviews details about the first and second Jewish revolts.

  • examines Freund's controversial theory that the cave was initially occupied during the First Jewish Revolt in 66 A.D. and that the artifacts Yadin found were objects rescued from the sacred Temple in Jerusalem.

  • conveys doubts from other archeologists regarding Freund's theory, claiming that there is no evidence in the cave of objects older than 135 A.D.

  • presents Freund's counterargument to this claim, based on inferences from radiocarbon dating of the letters found in the cave, which suggest that some objects were older than 135 A.D.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after the program is taped off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land